In today's globalized, digitally-driven world, the need to be a strong corporate brand has become more important than ever. 89% of B2B marketers say brand awareness is their most important goal, and 77% of marketing leaders cite creating strong brands as critical to their growth plans.
Whether operating in B2B or B2C sectors, all leading brands industry-wide share these common elements:
- Visual identity: color can increase brand recognition by up to 80%.
- Brand positioning: 64% of consumers say they trust a brand more if they share values with it.
- Consistency: consistent brand implementation across all channels increases revenue by 23%.
To achieve these components of strong brands, businesses need to have solid foundations made up of three key building blocks - people, process and technology.
1. The role people play in creating strong brands
Companies must commit to building strong brand stories from the inside-out. Employee buy-in to the company brand is extremely valuable. Nielsen's 2012 Global Trust in Advertising research found 92% of consumers are more inclined to trust brand information if it comes from 'earned media' (employees or peers) rather than endorsements or company adverts.
The world’s most recognizable brands are fully aware of that building strong brands starts internally. Take e-retail giant Zappos and its infamous hiring policy. The HR process is a mix of interview and cultural fit screening. It measures candidates against a ten point brand manifesto to determine if the potential employee would be good in the role of both the advertised job and a strong brand ambassador. No matter what position they’ve applied for, successful interviewees then progress to a month long customer service training program. The program exposes them to the brand’s ‘delivering outstanding customer service’ brand value. When finally presented with their contract, interviewees are offered $2k not to take the job. As a result, Zappos is 100% sure they have a team that is as dedicated to growing their brand as they are.
As well as identifying strong brand storytellers and ambassadors in the hiring phase, writing employees into your brand story is another effective way of cultivating a sense of brand loyalty and belonging within your team. American energy conglomerate General Electric (GE) did exactly this, to great effect, four years ago with its brand ambassador program.
After realizing negative brand perceptions were affecting talent recruitment, GE launched a LinkedIn campaign that combined its 350,000 employees and a $0 budget. It took the form of weekly blog posts, newsletters, an education hub and incentives. 75% of GE workers started writing about the benefits of working at GE, creating a counter-narrative to unfavorable brand stories. Within its first month, GE saw an 800% increase in applications and the equivalent of $9m of paid media spend. Directly raising the company’s brand value, GE serves up an impressive lesson in using employees to co-write your brand story.
2. Why strong brands are all about process
Organizing processes that support and facilitate brand growth makes it easier for businesses and their employees to build a brand that connects with a target audience. This is particularly true of global and multinational brands. Rather than the head office serving as a top-down transmitter of company branding, instead, providing one direction instructions to its local divisions, utilizing network models give organizations the key framework they need to reflect a brand’s identity and vision, while accommodating for local cultures, languages and preferences.
When it comes to strong brand examples, McDonalds is often referenced. But the fast-food franchise also serves up the perfect analogy for a network process. Its glowing golden arches are instantly recognizable around the world - whether you’re in France, the U.S or Australia. However, each country has a menu distinct to its national tastes. Alongside some universal options, Thailand, for example, has a “Samurai Pork Burger,” whereas the USA does not. Reflecting a network process, McDonald’s can grow a strong brand worldwide through consistent brand indicators. At the same time, they’re balancing global with local to keep its brand relevant to consumers around the world.
Another obvious strong brand identity example is Coca-Cola. Their strong brand identity is rooted in American culture, yet Coca-Cola receives 80% of its sales outside America. Coca-Cola relies on a global network process to cater to its diverse and emerging markets. This was a lesson learned by the company in the early 2000s when its standardized advertising and products (that were once so effective and launched the brand in the 80s and 90s) suffered due to a global backlash against American imperialism. As a result, Coca-Cola introduced its “think local, act local” marketing strategy. This promoted the brand’s values of happiness and sharing while giving local departments power to work with their own agencies to adapt both product and messaging to appeal to its consumers.
This “think local, act local” approach still rings true for Coca-Cola today. Describing Coca-Cola’s global process, Ahmet C. Bozer, president of the Coca-Cola Company’s Eurasia and Africa Group says: “The Coca-Cola brand is global, but it must be locally relevant. We may be giving the same happiness message, the same brand architecture may be communicated, but it has to be done differently in each country.”
In this network-style process, a head office should only be providing headlines, facilitating collective resources and supplying sources of inspiration. This serves to unify its brand identity and positioning in every country while allowing international divisions to define a specific market variation that works within local contexts. Markets receive the support they need to contribute to an evolving global brand without diluting or harming its core identity.
3. Supporting strong brands with technology
A strong brand is more than a logo. It’s made up of hundreds of interlinked elements - from the imagery on massive billboards to the font used in email sign-offs. For any company, particularly those operating on a global or enterprise-level, different software and systems are needed to support the access, monitoring and consistency of brand assets across all company channels.
Brand asset management (BAM) tools such as dynamic best practice templates and a centralized asset library give employees a solid starting point for producing on-brand content. BAM tools ensure brand identity remains consistent across all channels. They will often feature deep integrations and compliance functionalities with programs such as Microsoft that are used by employees daily.
Compared to manual BAM processes, the right brand asset management platform also allows Brand Managers to restrict access to these assets and templates, assigning varying authorization roles for different departments, locations and individuals in its network. This helps secure maximum compliance, as giving all employees (who will have varying interpretations of a brand’s identity) control over brand assets is a huge risk. It also means Brand Managers can rest assured that brand assets are being used as they should, with some BAM software options such as Templafy also offering validation tools to identify any off-brand elements.
Here is an example of technology being at the heart of a strong brand. Templafy’s template management solutions improved brand compliance for global jewelry designer PANDORA. Operating in more than one hundred countries with 7,900 points of sale and 2,100 concept stores, PANDORA needed tighter governance over how employees were using its brand assets in everyday communications such as internal and external documents and emails.
Working with PANDORA, Templafy introduced custom dynamic templates that automatically pulled through all pre-approved branding elements such as the latest logo, font and formatting into their documents. Hosted via the cloud and with deep integrations with digital asset management software, these templates and any other brand assets such as images or videos are accessible 24/7 from any location or device. Employees can log-in to Templafy to access compliant brand assets, or add branding assets directly into a document from within the Office application they're working in.
Speaking of the project, Kristian Lysgaard, Director of Corporate Communications at PANDORA says: “Templafy has solved [our] branding problem… Employees now know that they are always using the latest version of the templates and everything is completely integrated into the Office package. This has been a huge advantage. And our administrators now have a user-friendly admin interface where we can instantly add and edit content globally.”
Technology like Templafy helps give businesses the power to activate assets across their networks through centralized governance of a strong brand identity and improved enterprise-wide access to brand elements. In using Templafy for instance, PANDORA maintained its global brand consistency and integrity and also empowered its employees to become strong brand ambassadors.
If you’d like to learn more about how Templafy can help your business join these examples of strong brands in creating solid brand building blocks, you can book a meeting with our online meeting scheduler below.